Monday March 10 2014

New leader of the Opposition in Parliament has a big task ahead

By Kavuma Kaggwa

It is good news that Mr Wafula Oguttu, a veteran journalist of high standing, is now Leader of the Opposition in the Ugandan Parliament. A big task lies ahead and we expect him to perform to the satisfaction of citizens.

The people expect the opposition in the 9th Parliament to be a formidable force to effect reforms before the 2016 general elections. This is the year when the Constitution will be reviewed and amendments made to it before the 2016 general elections.

It is most likely that the government will appoint a Constitutional Review Commission similar to the one which was appointed in 2003/5, chaired by Prof Frederick Sempebwa.

I presented a 20-page petition in which I recommended the multi-party system and the right for a citizen to contest a parliamentary seat as an independent. My recommendations were adopted by the commission and were entrenched in the Constitution.

Mr Oguttu should now get prepared to move many amendments to the Constitution. He should start with the law governing the Electoral Commission. Under the multi-party system, all the registered political parties must have representation on the Electoral Commission. It should be decided now how that representation will be.

We do not want a repeat of 2010 when some women activists from the Forum for Democratic Change went to protest at the EC and they ended up being forcefully sent away by police.

There is an alternative system which we should introduce in Uganda and have it entrenched in the Constitution. This is a system whereby a citizen contesting for the presidency should also be elected as a Member of Parliament in a constituency of their choice.

This is a good system because this candidate is normally the leader of his party, therefore if he is not elected President of Uganda, he will be a Member of Parliament and will be able to speak and advocate the policies of his party in Parliament.

If we had this system in our Constitution, all the seven candidates who contested in 2011 would now be MPs. The system that requires a presidential candidate to be given three months to campaign officially in 112 districts before polling day is extremely cumbersome and absolutely useless in a multi-party system in modern times.

I saw the danger in this system in the last general elections when Ms Beti Olive Kamya, the president of Uganda Federal Alliance, ended up in hospital for two weeks and President Museveni seemed quite fatigued despite the good presidential facilities he enjoyed.

In modern times, when we have television, radio, and daily newspapers which the candidates can use to reach people easily and explain their agenda, the campaign time should be done seven months before polling day and the area covered should be 50 districts instead of 112.

Within the seven months, a candidate should cover 10 districts in western Uganda, 10 in northern Uganda and 15 in eastern Uganda and 15 in Buganda. This should be made in such a way that those who are able financially and materially can start their campaign on their own before the official nomination day as long as they inform the police.

Finally, we have several mobile telephone companies operating in Uganda but these companies have not offered to float shares to the public on the Kampala Stock Exchange. The new Leader of the Opposition in Parliament should move a Private Member’s Bill for Parliament to enact a law compelling all the telecom companies to sell shares to the citizens of Uganda.

Mr Kavuma-Kaggwa is an elder from Kyaggwe, Mukono District